Alice: Madness Returns is the much anticipated follow up (by me, anyway) to 2000’s PC/Mac game American McGee’s Alice – the dark and gritty telling of Alice’s post-Looking Glassadventures in what has now become a twisted version of Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland. The original game had Alice following an anorexic, pierced Cheshire Cat around a grotesque Wonderland, presumably due to Alice’s inclement insanity, slashing her way through the Red Queen’s guards amongst other familiar faces from Carroll’s universe with a bloody knife, and the sequel delivers more of the same.
Lo and behold, this February the cult classic, Beyond Good and Evil, makes a return to the console in HD. BG&E is one of those games that never sold well, but you’d be pleasantly surprised if you gave it a chance. In the same vein as other esoteric games like Psychonauts or Omikron: The Nomad Soul, BG&E decided to take a chance on a game that didn’t pit you as a growly-voiced, alpha-male in body armor against a horde of aliens (it doesn’t matter if they come from the ground, or space ::inside joke::). Naturally, it was critically acclaimed, but a commercial flop, leaving those who did play the game clamoring for a sequel.
What is all about?
Ok, well there are Alien invaders here, but not made of the same stuff as popular first person shooters. There is a political conspiracy, planetary residents seeking refuge, and an underground movement seeking to restore order for the people. You are Jade, a freelance photographer who donates her earnings toward the maintenance of the planetary shield that keeps the aliens at bay. She quickly becomes swept up in the IRIS Network, the underground organization which suspects the government is in league with the aliens, the DomZ, helping them to kidnap citizens.
Jade is equipped with a camera, which she uses to scan the environment for clues, photograph (a-la Poekmon Snap) creatures to earn cash, and obtain evidence of conspiracy. For combat, Jade uses a staff and discs for attacking at range. She is aided by companions in the IRIS network who assist her in solving puzzles, and navigating platforming levels. Jade also drives a hovercraft to traverse the “world map”, which takes her to the various puzzles and platforming levels scattered throughout. Jades equipment and abilities can be upgraded using her credits, and is required to reach new levels on the map. The game features an interesting mix of puzzle-solving, platforming, stealth, and vehicle combat.
Stealth, environment scanning, underground movements, and conspiracies? Sounds a bit like Splinter Cell or Assassin’s Creed. And, NPC-assisted platforming and combat? That reminds me of Prince of Persia. You’re right on all accounts, this is a Ubisoft game. You’re guaranteed to get an understandable story, with the excellent character control you’ve come to expect from this “multicultural team of various religious faiths and beliefs.” And, unless you are content to play nothing but FPS-inspired sequels for the foreseeable future (Resistance 3, Gears 3, Cod 25(?)) you’ll want to support the dwindling number of quality, novel experiences from disc-based games (Arcade titles notwithstanding).
Conveniently enough, a long-awaited sequel to this 2003 title is finally in the works. No time like the present to check out, or replay, this gaming gem in beautiful HD and get caught up on the story. Happy gaming.